Gehry Downsizes Tower Design for Atlantic Yards

May 23, 2008

By C.J. Hughes

Even Frank Gehry projects don’t seem to be immune to the current economic downturn.

Atlantic Yards, a 22-acre, 8-million-square-foot mixed-use New York City project that’s been mired in controversy from day one, is now scaling back its signature building, Miss Brooklyn, from 620 to 511 feet in height. Along with the downsizing comes a change in function: originally, the tower was to feature condos and offices, but the new design calls for just 650,000 square feet of commercial space. As such, developer Forest City Ratner Companies is also renaming it, from Miss Brooklyn, for the borough it will sit in, to the more prosaic Building One.

Atlantic Yards
Atlantic Yards
Image courtesy Forest City Ratner Companies

New renderings of Atlantic Yards, a controversial 22-acre mixed-use project designed by Frank Gehry for New York City, recently were released. The signature building, Miss Brooklyn, is considerably smaller.

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The high-rise has a completely new look. Previously, its facade was arrayed along relatively straight, clean lines, renderings show. Now, though, the glass-and-steel structure twists and tapers as it climbs, skewing its silver-colored panels at enough odd angles to suggest a house of cards.

Meanwhile, the design of Barclays Center—the 17,000-seat future home of the New Jersey Nets—also has been tweaked. To ensure the arena complements Building One, explains Gehry, it now sports blue stainless-steel cladding, along with curvilinear shapes reminiscent of the architect’s famed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Fewer revisions appear to have been made to Building Two, a 34-story, 350-apartment tower, whose clustered window-dotted cube forms resemble stacks of dice.

The developer plans to break ground on the arena in November, and Building Two next spring. Construction of Building One, however, won’t get underway mid-2009 and wrap up until 2011—two years later than originally projected. MaryAnne Gilmartin, a Forest City executive vice president, says they want to line up tenants before they start building the commercial tower.

Despite local skepticism, Gehry dismisses concerns that Atlantic Yards is in jeopardy, explaining that design revisions merely denote a work-in-progress. “These are not really changes because the design was never finished.” he says. In any case, the makeover’s done little to quiet critics of the project, whose price tag is $4.3 billion; they still take issue with the plan to close streets and take land by eminent domain. “It still doesn’t speak to any of the reasons we are opposed,” says Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for the four-year-old Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

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